Fall color, Florida style! This caboose is painted orange instead of red which is the more traditional caboose color, but it works for introducing a little "fall color" in the scene.
There were obstacles to getting a good exposure with a single image with intense light and shadow in the foreground. The simplest solution was to shoot for HDR - High Dynamic Range technique - and merge the images in Photomatix to create a better balanced final image. When processing an high dynamic range image, you can make it look photo-realistic, painterly, grungy, or any variation using the Photomatix Tone Mapping filter.
With my "Florida Orange" caboose, I wanted a realistic photo look, with a little enhanced color. This was easy to do starting with the "Natural" preset within Tone Mapping filter. You can follow up by using any of the Topaz Adjust filters for more fun and interest.
Happy shooting and make great pictures!
Note: Deborah Sandidge teaches a terrific Internet photo class on getting creative with Photoshop, plus her outstanding Web online course: Digital Infrared Photography. In addition, at BetterPhoto.com's digital photography school, nature photographer Tony Sweet offers his excellent online photography tutorial on high dynamic range imaging.
When you follow my blog, take a workshop, buy my book and write a positive review on Amazon, you get perks- that's right, I throw DOWN for my students and fans! :)
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Everyone says that it is so easy to change white balance in RAW, that you can simply set your camera to AWB when you shoot RAW and set white balance in Lightroom or other program. Yet, though this may be true in concept, I consistently see problems with white balance due to that technique because of the problems with auto white balance or AWB.
First off, AWB is inconsistent. You can take a picture of the same scene with wide angle and telephoto focal lengths and get two different white balances. The colors will be different, even though they should be identical. Now you are faced with a workflow problem - you have to adjust white balance of at least one of the photos, yet if you set your camera to a specific white balance, often you would not do any adjusting at all.
Now if you have to adjust white balance, then you are faced with a decision. Suppose you have those two images that came up with different color because of AWB - which one is correct or alternately which one is better? Or maybe neither! So regardless of what program you are working with, you have a workflow issue where you have to go in and change white balance settings.
And that gives another problem. A lot of people see the settings for white balance in Lightroom and Camera Raw, notice that they are similar to the camera’s settings, and figure that they can just set these settings there. Actually, you can’t. Those settings are Adobe colors, Adobe interpretations of digital image files, not interpretations of a real-world scene as your camera is doing. This means that if you have two radically different images that are both in standard daylight conditions and set both to Adobe’s daylight setting, for example, you can get different looks for both photos. That’s definitely a problem.
And there are other problems, including one that I had not thought about until I started seeing so many photographs from my students at BetterPhoto.com that I was recognizing as having been shot with AWB. When digital cameras first came out, I was an advocate for setting a specific white balance, especially when shooting outdoors. This, to me, was simply a part of the craft of photography now modified by digital. I have always felt that it is best to capture the best image from the start rather than trying to “fix” it later, which is what using AWB plus a RAW software to set white balance does. But I did not believe that I could actually recognize AWB until I started seeing consistent color problems such as weaker colors and colors that are contaminated by blue.
What I think seems to happen is that the photographer gets back in front of the computer after shooting something outside and sees the image in isolation. AWB may often give a compromised color, but it usually looks “okay” on the monitor, and most photographers don’t shoot a series of varied shots of the same subject, so they don’t see the variation in color that AWB gives. So they don’t make the white balance adjustment needed, the white balance adjustment that some RAW aficionados say makes AWB fine to use. AWB would be okay to use if the photographer always made an adjustment, but so often, like I said, the AWB photo looks okay and so the photographer accepts the weaker color and contaminated blues because there is nothing to compare to.
So for me, it is a workflow and photographic craft issue. I set my white balance to a specific setting because I want consistent results when shooting in the field, because I want to be sure I have captured the best colors while I am still in the field, and because I don’t want to have to “fix it” in Lightroom (which is my program of choice).
Do I use AWB? Yes. I think it is an important control when you are indoors with screwy lighting. It can be hard in those conditions to figure out what to do for white balance. I also think that custom white balance is a good thing to use in those conditions, including devices such as the Spyder Cube that are a great help when working with a RAW file in Lightroom or other program in order to get neutral colored neutral colors. Custom white balance is trickier to use outdoors in nature because there are often important natural color casts to such scenes that you want to retain or even emphasize.
Rob Sheppard - the editor-at-large of Outdoor Photographer magazine - teaches a number of online photo tutorials, including Successful Successful Publication Photography and Impact in Your Photographs: The Wow Factor. The online photography school at BetterPhoto.com offers Internet photography courses in an exciting range of subjects and for all skill levels.
Adobe just announced its next version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as Lightroom 3 beta. That is exactly what it says, a beta, meaning it is unfinished. This is not a digital imaging workflow program to use for your main work as it has bugs in it and things that don’t work quite right yet. While Adobe tends to be very secretive about their plans for a final version of anything, I would expect the final Lightroom 3 to be available maybe by early spring next year.
Before I talk about some of the new features that you might find of interest, I should just talk a little about Lightroom and RAW converters. To be honest, I am not that interested in other programs. I find that Adobe Lightroom is the best image handling and processing program available today for most photographers. I don’t base that simply on my work with Lightroom (although I can tell you very honestly that I could not produce the books and workshops I do now at the pace I do them without Lightroom).
I also base this on working with many, many photographers in classes, workshops and even one-on-one consulting that Lightroom works very well indeed for photographers. Compared to Photoshop, it is interesting that when I do a Photoshop workshop, it can take a week before students really start to feel comfortable, yet with Lightroom, they are actively and confidently working on their own within 2-3 days.
I cannot recommend Aperture, for example, because it is missing some key photographic controls — you cannot check black levels with a threshold screen (which I consider vital to good image processing) and you cannot do dodging and burning non-destructively (you must use an export plug-in). Lightroom does dodging and burning non-destructively within the program and truly brings me back to traditional darkroom work.
Nikon’s Capture NX is a superb program, for another example, but it is only available for Nikon RAW files (though it can handle anyone’s JPEG files). So that makes Capture NX limited in use for only a select group of photographers.
Adobe Lightroom 3 has had its processing engine taken apart and rebuilt, from what I hear from Adobe. This is a big deal with RAW files as images from such files must be “built” from RAW data such as keeping the color pattern of pixels from the sensor as is (the color pattern from nearly all sensors is not the way the world looks and has to be “developed” in order to get a correct image). So having a better processing engine will mean better final results in many aspects for your Lightroom workflow, including a cleaner file from any camera. Some people are finding that the program is now giving substantially improved results from smaller sensor/many-megapixeled cameras that start to rival larger-sensor cameras.
One thing that is different is a new noise reduction set of algorithms (and this comes from the new processing engine). I was never much impressed with the noise reduction of any Adobe products. This now promises excellent noise reduction within the Lightroom workflow, which is a welcome feature. Color noise works in the beta, but luminance is not functional yet. I am still optimistic, given Adobe’s talents, that the final results will be quite good.
One thing I quite like about LR 3 is the new Import feature. Import was not bad before, but it is such an important function, and the old version didn’t give it the feeling of importance that it deserved. Consequently, many photographers breezed by many key import decisions. I think the new interface for Import is well thought out and uses a similar format to the modules of Lightroom, which elevates it to “module level” of importance. I think that is a good thing, plus the new Import interface makes it easier to make the right decisions for importing photos.
Another thing I really like about LR3 that has absolutely nothing to do with better photos is the change from Grayscale to Black-and-White. It’s about time. Grayscale was never a very photographic term. No one who worked with black-and-white photography ever said they were going to do some grayscale printing today! Grayscale is a computer term and an affectation for photographers who have no sense of history. Black-and-white continues the very strong emphasis that Lightroom has on being highly photography centric.
I have really liked the vignetting feature of LR2 that allows quick and easy darkening of the edges of a photo. Ansel Adams made a big deal about edge darkening in his books (and I still consider his book, The Print, a must for digital photographers — just skip all the chemistry stuff). In LR3, the post-crop vignette gains some new algorithms which have been described as giving a “more natural look.” Although I am not sure what a more natural look really means for such an effect, the new vignettes do look quite pleasing and you get some new options on how color and tone are affected.
A very noticeable new feature of LR 3 is the Publish Services in the Library. To be honest, I have not used this part of the beta. It is designed to make publishing photos to websites (such as Flickr) and other “off-site” locations easier.
Slideshows now get music that can be fit to the slides, plus you can save your slide show in a video form that keeps music with it. That is a big improvement, but still, the slideshow capabilities of Lightroom are pretty limited. If you are serious about slide shows, check out ProShow Gold from Photodex Software for Windows or FotoMagico from Boinx Software for the Mac. Even a simple video program such as Adobe Premiere Elements will give more flexibility with slide shows.
Note: Outdoor Photographer magazine's editor-at-large, Rob Sheppard, teaches many online photography workhops, including Guaranteed Better Photography and Successful Publication Photography. BetterPhoto's digital photography school also offers many other online Photoshop classes, including Adobe Lightroom - A Comprehensive Look by Outdoor Photographer contributing editor Lewis Kemper.
As of 0800 today, one of our favorite companies released the Lensbaby Fisheye lens. It's really different and after getting a feel for it, I couldn't put it down!
Very far out and verrrrry different look!
The full circle fisheye is what you get with a full-frame SLR camera.
Note: To see more examples of Tony Sweet's fisheye pictures shot with this camera lens for creative photography: Lensbaby fisheye photo gallery. In addition, Tony teaches an outstanding online photo workshop at BetterPhoto.com: Creative Nature Photos with Lensbabies.
I am finding there still is some confusion as to camera speeds and memory card speeds.
So first, let's look at digital camera speeds. All cameras that shoot RAW and JPEG will shoot both formats in all drive speeds, but because of the file size differences - whether you shoot RAW, JPEG or both at the same time - will affect how the camera handles multiple shots. As the camera shoots at high or low drive speeds, the camera will often shoot faster than the files can be put onto the memory card. The files are then put into a buffer (memory in the camera just for this purpose) to wait in line to get on the memory card. When that buffer is filled, the camera will stop shooting until room is made for the shots.
With RAW, the buffer fills quickly because the image files are large, which means that after a certain number of shots, the buffer will be filled and there is no more room for additional image files, so the camera will quit shooting. With JPEG, the buffer fills more slowly because the files are much smaller, and often the memory card can keep up with the JPEG files so the camera does not quit shooting. This is a big reason for the L or low speed setting on many cameras — since shots are taken slower, the buffer fills more slowly, even with RAW, so you can keep shooting longer than with H or high speed.
Memory card speed affects how fast the camera can pull images out of the buffer and load them onto the card. A faster card will allow the buffer to be emptied faster as long as, and this is an important qualification, the camera has been designed to handle the speed of the card. If a card is faster than the capabilities of the camera, that speed is wasted as the camera cannot go that fast. Using a high-speed memory card with a camera that cannot work that fast will have no effect on camera speed and will give no better results than a lower speed memory card.
Most mid-level to high-end cameras typically could handle the speeds of cards available at the time the camera first came to the market. But then this capability will change over time as card speeds increase during the life of the camera model.
Memory card speed has no effect on how fast the camera can shoot — that is purely a function of the mechanics and electronics of the camera. It can only affect how fast the buffer is cleared, which will affect how long the camera can shoot before it has to stop and allow the buffer to open up.
Note: Rob Sheppard is an instructor at BetterPhoto.com, and teaches many excellent online photo workhops, including Guaranteed Better Photography, The Magic of F-stops: Choosing the Right Aperture, and Storytelling Nature Photos. In addition, BetterPhoto's photography school offers online DSLR camera courses on specific Nikon, Canon and Olympus digital SLR cameras.
Fall color is pure magic! Living in Florida, I can never get enough of it. With this image, the color is accentuated by the fog... and a little help from a Photoshop plugin - Topaz Adjust.
I liked the composition, but the white background wasn't attractive and I wanted to "fill in the blank." That was easy to do using a second photo of trees for the background! The addition of trees helps tell the story I had in mind.
To create a painterly effect, I used the Portrait Smooth preset in Topaz Adjust, which enhanced the colors and softened the overall image.
Make great pictures!
Note: Deborah Sandidge teaches an outstanding online Photoshop tutorial on Photoshop plugins and other creative Photoshop techniques. In addition, BetterPhoto.com's photography school offers many other online Photoshop courses.
Because "clipping" - the cutting off of tonality at the left or right side of the histogram in digital photography - can cause you problems, it is worth paying attention to. But to arbitrarily define how a histogram should look or act is asking for trouble. If you look at a histogram and look at clipping without looking at the photo will lead you astray. The histogram is a guide, not a “speed limit” sort of thing that will get you arrested by the histogram police should you ignore it.
Let’s look at what is going on. All clipping tells you is that the scene’s pure white and pure black start beyond the limits of what you are seeing in the image. There are many situations where you will photograph and the histogram will clip automatically because the contrast range of the scene is beyond the capabilities of the camera. That means that no matter what you do, even if you adjust the histogram in the computer to “no longer” clip, you cannot recover detail that was never captured, which is what the clipped histogram will show.
But that might not matter. We don’t need to see every detail in a scene in order for a photograph to be successful. In fact, many times, we do not want to see every detail. If we were to look at the great photographer, W. Eugene Smith, and his work (he is considered by many to be the father of modern photojournalism), we would quickly discover that most of his images were “clipped” compared to the original scene or the negative. He went for a very dark sort of image in order to better communicate his vision to the viewer.
Black tones and dark areas are very subjective. We generally want to have at least something pure black, meaning those tones are just starting to clip. But some images, especially when processed with the tonal information RAW has, look better with the dark areas having no tones, just pure black, meaning the clipping is higher. On the other hand, whites tend to be very sensitive to clipping. Often we want the white tones to just barely hit the end of the histogram, just under clipping. But sometimes we have scenes that have very bright light or reflections that distract from our subject - in that case, we can let them go pure white, making more of the image "clip", but keeping our important detail.
The important thing is not whether we clip or not clip, but what happens when clipping occurs. Is this good for the photo or bad for the photo? Does the picture look better or worse? Will it print or reproduce properly?
Note: Outdoor Photographer columnist Rob Sheppard teaches many online photo workshops, such as The Magic of F-stops: Choosing the Right Aperture and Successful Publication Photography. In addition, BetterPhoto.com's digital photography school has a number of courses designed to show you how to get a good exposure with a digital camera.
This couple looked very romantic together as they did a little window shopping in downtown Savannah. I couldn't help but take pictures of the two as they walked with their arms around each other. The colorfully painted architecture, brick pavers and decorated windows made a photographic composition that was hard to resist.
This painterly rendition was created using several Photoshop plug-ins. I like to enhance color and detail first. You can do this by using a Photoshop CS4 plugin such as Topaz Adjust. The Psychedelic preset works well to intensify the image and prepare it for the next artistic step.
I liked the original photograph, but I wanted to make it look more like a painting. Snap Art has a variety of artistic media effects. I used Watercolor with an abstract brush which created an overall painterly look. This is just what I had in mind when I made the picture!
NOTE: Like the idea? Then join Deb Sandidge for her online Photoshop course on Photoshop - Enhancing Digital Images and Creating Works of Art. Also at BetterPhoto.com's photography school, there are many other online Photoshop courses and Photoshop tutorials.